Founding Father: Sam Adams
"The Last American Puritan"
Not many people credit Sam Adams of Boston, Johns cousin, with being an important American founding father. But he was that, as well as being one of the most dedicated Christians among the elite group of men who met in Philadelphia and signed the Declaration of Independence during that fateful summer of 1776.
Sam was also a realistic Christian who was not certain how long the Biblical heritage he had helped instill in his new nation could be preserved. Before his death in 1803, Adams was already seeing cracks in the Christian republic he had helped to bring to life at Independence Hall. He lamented: I am greatly concerned for my dear native Town [Boston], lest after having stood foremost in the Cause of Religion and Liberty she lose her Glory.
Today, many dedicated Christians in America are reading their newspapers and sharing Sam Adams concern. We are faced every day with examples of the decreasing role of Christianity and the Bible in our beloved country. Americas Biblical heritage is gradually being lost, but we agree with Sam Adams that preserving that religious heritage is not merely one option among many if we are to ensure our continuing liberties in America.
The Life of Sam Adams
Samuel Adams (1722-1803) grew up in a Christian home. His father was a successful businessman, but Sam had no taste for business and he ran everything he attempted into debt. In fact, when he went to Philadelphia to serve in the First and Second Continental Congresses and to sign the Declaration of Independence in 1776, friends had to volunteer to repair his home and barn and give him money for fresh travelling clothes.
Sams heart was in politics, not in business. He studied at Harvard, and he was a cousin of John Adams, who later became the second President of the United States. But despite his other shortcomings, Sam was a particularly dedicated Christians and he was a gifted advocate for American independence.
The people of Boston selected Sam to draft their rejection of the hated Stamp Act in 1764. A year later, he was elected to the colonial assembly of Massachusetts where he became an important political force in Boston Town Hall Meetings. Adams was also the driving force behind the Boston Tea Party in 1773.
In 1772, Sam created a Committee of Correspondence in Boston. He wanted to keep in touch with his fellow Americans in colonies up and down the coast where similar committees were being formed. These Committees of Correspondence were created to address a concern similar to one we have todaypeople could not trust the mainstream media (royalist newspapers in that day).
Although Sam signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776, he initially opposed the 1787 Constitution until the Bill of Rights was added guaranteeing in writing certain basic libertiesincluding the right of religious freedom. After those protections were added, he championed the cause of the Constitution and successfully led the state of Massachusetts in ratifying it.
A Dedicated Christian Founder
Sam Adams was a very devout man, perhaps the most devout man at Independence Hall in Philadelphia in 1776. His biographer, John C. Miller, says that Samuel Adams cannot be understood without considering the lasting impact George Whitefields evangelistic preaching had on him at Harvard during the First Great Awakening. Others in New England were not touched by the Great Awakening in such a long lasting manner. Miller tells us:
Sam Adams never forgot those stirring days during the Great Awakening when George Whitefield thundered in the Pulpit. . . . [I]n his eyes, the chief purpose of the American Revolution was to separate New England from the decadent mother country in order that Puritanism might again flourish as it had in the early seventeenth century. Adams hoped to do by means of a political revolution what George Whitefield had done through a religious awakening. Puritanism was his goal: revolution his method of attaining it.
Putting Belief to Action
Ideas have consequences. Ones theology really does affect ones life. What strengthened Sam Adams, the lighting rod of the American Revolution, was his Biblical faith. In our day, when our Christian heritage has been all but expunged from the public record, we need to remember that the American most responsible for encouraging the War for Independence was a solid Bible-believing Christian. Another biographer, John Eidsmoe, says of this dedicated Christian founder:
He never overlooked an opportunity to give a religious flavor to his political activities. During crises in the struggle between the House of Representatives and the royal governor, Adams set aside days of fasting and prayer to seek the Lord; and by this means he gave the American Revolution the character of a moral and religious crusade.
Samuel Adams truly believed that God would make the United States into a great nation. In 1772 he argued in an article printed in the Boston Gazette that providence will erect a mighty empire in America.
The Rights of Colonists as Christians
Samuel Adams believed that God and the Bible were the basis of all the rights being given to Americans in the Declaration of Independence and in other founding documents. In 1772, Adams wrote a document called The Rights of the Colonists. This treatise is viewed historically as a key document for articulating the reasons why America should sever all political ties to Great Britain. In this document, Adams argued:
The right to freedom being the gift of God Almighty . . . the rights of the Colonists as Christians . . . MAY BE BEST understood by reading and carefully studying the institutions of the great Lawgiver and the Head of the Christian Church, which are to be found clearly written and promulgated in the New Testament.
Historian Robert Flood points out that: Samuel Adams regarded individual freedom as the law of the Creator and a Christian right documented in the New Testament. Adams clearly saw the colonists rights as coming from God, a belief that several years later became the cornerstone of the Declaration of Independence:
A Call for Freedom
Samuel Adams, through his work with the Committees of Correspondence and the Massachusetts Assembly, was one of the first colonial leaders to call for a Continental Congress. He called for a national conference of representatives from the various states to meet in Philadelphia in September 1774. Adams was one of the first patriots to become convinced that the grievances America had against Great Britain should be radically redressed.
By 1776, two Continental Congresses had convened and met and Adams goal had been accomplished. While the Declaration of Independence was being signed, Sam Adams rejoiced greatly to see that in this document, the Continental Congress was acknowledging the Lordship of Christ over the affairs of men. He said of that great document, We have this day restored the Sovereign to Whom all men ought to be obedient. He reigns in heaven and from the rising to the setting of the sun, let His kingdom come.
A Faithful Servant to the End
Although Sam Adams was one of the greatest voices for the Lord and for independence in 1776, because of his shortcomings in business, he died in poverty in 1803. Tragically, at the end of his life, Sam was already becoming at least partially disappointed with the outcome of his lifes work in crafting a free nation that would rely wholly on God. Sam had hoped and prayed that a true spiritual revival would follow the American Revolution in every colony. That desire never materialized during in his lifetime, although the Second Great Awakening, another frontier American revival, began a few years after his death.
Today, America is in desperate need of a Third Great Revival to restore our dependence upon God and the Bible in order to preserve our independence and our liberties. Please join CLA in praying for that revival both immediately and during our Capitol Prayer outreach in 2009 and our prayer rally in Washington D.C. in 2010. We need a Twenty-First Century Sam Adams in America. Even though the fame of this dedicated servant of God has been eclipsed by his more well-known cousin and second American president, John Adams, there is still much that we can learn from Sam, this last great American Puritan who served and honored God with his whole heart and intellect.